Kuroko's Basketball
Episode 16

by Lauren Orsini,

Both actions and words have made it clear that the Generation of Miracles possess monstrous ability. However, this is the first time it's been so overt that their talent has come at the cost of their humanity. During the final episode of the Teiko arc of Kuroko's Basketball, your favorite characters will act callously at best and cruelly at worst.

“The team has gotten stronger, but nobody laughs anymore,” Momoi notes at the beginning of the episode. The Teiko team is full of bored and sullen faces, which we only see illuminated by twilight, or cast in shadow while the rain falls outside. Even the cherry blossom backdrops aren't cheery, merely indications that a whole year has passed in this fashion, as the characters we know and love in the present fall deeper into apathy and ennui. We learn that they've taken to playing appallingly rude games during matches: instead of respectfully playing against their lackluster opponents, they're competing against each other instead.

This part of the episode is especially painful to witness since the clear ringleaders, Murasakibara, Kise, and Aomine, have developed the familiar personalities we've learned to love over the past 80 episodes. Watching them behave so reprehensibly reminds us that you don't need to be a textbook villain like Haizaki in order to commit bad deeds. There's a lot more at stake with complex characters behaving badly instead of obviously villainous characters doing the same—it's painful because we know they're capable of so much better.

Kuroko is clearly upset by his teammates' behavior, but he doesn't say anything until the game gets personal, and Teiko plays against the team his childhood friend is on. Teiko battles Meiko (really?) for the final tournament game, but Kuroko is down for the count and doesn't participate. He does, however, show up just in time to watch his friend experience a psychotic breakdown. As his friend Ogiwara looks at him with all the light gone out of his eyes, Kuroko weeps, the background music grinds to a halt, and the colors mute to white and Kuroko's trademark powder blue. The stylistic choice to make this scene appear in watercolor only adds to the melancholy. “We won the tournament but my heart is in pain,” Kuroko thinks. It's a turning point for him—the Generation of Miracles has lost its humanity.

It's interesting to note that Kuroko almost didn't witness the traumatic end of the game. After Kuroko awakes from his injury, Akashi tries to calm him, telling him something his friend Ogiwara may or may not have actually said. Akashi is too smart not to realize that his teammates are behaving reprehensively, but ever Machiavellian Akashi only wants his team motivated to win, at whatever the cost. Kuroko is rightfully angry afterward as he confronts the team. Kise's statement that the team wouldn't have played this way if they'd known it was Kuroko's friend only makes it worse, showing that it takes a connection to Kuroko for the Generation of Miracles to regard their opponents as humans with feelings. Akashi observes that Kuroko is equally hypocritical: “You look the other way when they have nothing to do with you,” he needles. It's a statement that has clearly stayed with Kuroko for years.

As the curtain falls on the Teiko arc, we return to Kuroko's audience, the morally upright Seirin. The only bright parts in this episode are Seirin—both literally and plotwise. In the stadium. their passionate brand of play is illuminated while Kuroko stands in awe in the shadows. Back in the present, they bring the first humorous moment to the show as Kuroko's teammates respond mock-angrily and all is forgiven. No matter how horrific the past, Seirin's reappearance reminds us that Teiko isn't Kuroko's reality anymore.

The episode closes on a reminder that after four episodes of historic buildup, it's time to face a more powerful, dangerous Akashi. It's the end of the darkest and most chaotic arc in Kuroko's Basketball, and only an episode starring somebody as unpredictable as the Generation of Miracles' captain could serve as its rightful chaser.

Rating: A

Kuroko's Basketball is currently streaming on Daisuki.

Lauren writes about anime and journalism at Otaku Journalist.

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